She fluffed the pillows and then reached for the mystery novel she bought yesterday, feeling nice and snug under the thick, downy comforter while it flurried outside. Just as she opened the book and began reading, the doorbell rang. At first she ignored it, thinking that someone had made a mistake. It happened sometimes. When it rang persistently, she sighed irritably, closed her book and climbed out of bed. She glanced at the time on her alarm radio. It was ten-thirty. Who could be calling at her flat at this time?
She slipped her feet into her slippers, pulled on her robe and hurried from the bedroom. After switching on the light in the hall, she went to the front door and peered out. Her eyes widened in surprise and dismay. Immediately, she unlocked the door and flung it open, her expression censorious as she met the sheepish gaze of her teenage nephew. “Christopher Holloway, what on earth are you doing here? Do you have an idea what time it is?”
He shifted from one foot to the other, hands shoved in the pockets of his coat which was lightly dusted with snow. “I’m sorry, Aunt Bev,” he said. “But, I had to see you.”
“Come in,” she said, stepping aside to let him pass. After she closed and locked the door, she turned to face him. “Does your Dad know that you’re here?”
He shook his head. “He wasn’t even home when I left. Sometimes he stays out late.”
“Well, we’re going to call him right now so that he can come and get you. Do you have his cell number on you?”
He nodded and reluctantly gave her his cell after speed dialing the number. She took the phone from him. It ran a few times and then a deep voice answered. “Christopher?”
“No, it’s not Christopher. It’s Beverley. He’s with me.”
“What?” was the incredulous exclamation. “What on earth is he doing there?”
“I’m about to find that out. Can you please come and get him?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Where do you live?”
She gave him the address.
“I should be there in less than half-hour.”
“See you then.”
She handed Christopher his cell. “Give me your coat,” she said. He had already removed his boots. “Your Dadis coming to get you. Would you like something hot to drink?”
He shook his head. “No thanks. I grabbed a hot chocolate on my way over.”
“Let’s go into the living-room. I want to know why you’re here and on a school night.” While he went over to the sofa, she hung his coat up in the closet. Then, she went and sat down beside him. “What’s going on? Did you have a fight with your uncle?
He shook his head. “No,” he said. “Dad is cool. No, this isn’t about him.”
She could see that something was troubling and she became concerned. “Tell me what’s on your mind,” she said gently.
“I’m in trouble,” he disclosed after a few minutes passed. “I mean we’re in trouble.”
“Tasha and me.”
“She’s a girl at school. We hang out together. I really like her.”
“What did you mean when you said that you were in trouble?”
“Well, you see, Tasha and I went to her house after school a few weeks ago. No one was home. We went down in the basement and hung out there. We were talking and then we started kissing which led to—“
“You and Tasha had sex,” she said, trying not to get upset. “You’re only sixteen years old. You shouldn’t be having sex at your age.”
“Most of my friends have already had sex. One of them had sex when he was fourteen.”
She closed her eyes almost afraid to ask. “Is Tasha pregnant?”
“We don’t know. Her period was late.”
“Has she done a pregnancy test as yet?”
He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here, Aunt Bev. Tasha’s too nervous to go to the drugstore. She’s afraid of someone seeing her and telling her mother. I was wondering—we were both wondering if you could pick up one for her and then we can come over here and she takes the test.”
Bev didn’t know what to do. She felt like she would be going behind Tasha’s mother’s back if she were to agree to get the pregnancy test but Christopher was her nephew and he came to her for help. “All right,” she said. “I’ll pick the test up. Can you bring Tasha here tomorrow after school? I’m not working this week.”
He looked relieved. “Yes, I can,” he said. “She usually walks home from school but we can take the bus here. Thank you, Aunt Bev.”
She looked at him. “I hope for your sake that she’s not pregnant. You’re way too young to be a father.”
He hung his head. “I know. Things got out of hand.” He looked up at her. “You won’t tell Dad, would you?”
“No, I won’t. I will leave that up to you.” The doorbell rang. “That must be him.” She got up from the sofa and went to answer the door. It was Warner. She opened the door and after they greeted each other, she led him into the living-room where Christopher was.
He went over to his nephew and hugged him. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Christopher nodded. “I’m all right. I had to see Aunt Bev about something.”
“It’s getting late,” Warner said. “And you have school tomorrow.”
Bev went and got Christopher’s coat and as he pulled it on, she turned to Warner. “I told Christopher that he can come by again tomorrow after school, if that’s okay with you.”
He nodded. “That’s fine.” He took out a business card and scribbled something on the back. “My cell number,” he said, handing the card to her.
She took it and put it in the pocket of her robe. Christopher joined them and she hugged him. “Goodnight,” she murmured.
“Goodnight, Aunt Bev. And thank you.”
They drew apart and she preceded them to the door. Christopher stepped out into the hallway and waited for his uncle. Warner paused to look at her. “Goodnight,” he said quietly, his eyes lingering on her face. She wished she knew what he was thinking. At that moment, her heart was burning with a love she longed to express but couldn’t. The memory of her sister was between them as a reminder that she could never take her place.
“Goodnight,” she said, forcing a smile before she closed the door and leaned against it. It was just her luck to fall in love with her sister’s husband. She remembered the first time Gail brought him round to their parents’ home to meet the family. She introduced him and then announced that they were getting married. It was a small ceremony at a chapel and the reception was held at a banquet hall. Seven months later Christopher was born. Bev wondered why Gail never told her about Warner or that she was pregnant. She never got the chance to ask her because just 24 hours later after giving birth to Christopher, Gail died. Her untimely death was caused by a pulmonary embolism which stopped her heart instantly.
The memory of Warner holding their son who would never again be held by his mother remained with her. Tears pricked her eyes even now. She watched as Warner became both parents to Christopher and it was during that time when she realized that she was in love with him. For years she kept her feelings to herself and was content to be there for both of them whenever they needed her. And as a result, Christopher and she developed a very strong bond.
When he was a baby, she would sit in the rocker and feed him while humming or talking to him about his mother or his father. She enjoyed those times when she bathed him and held him in her arms as she rocked him gently to sleep. Sometimes, she would take time off from work just to be with him. As he lay in his crib, she would play with him or read stories. She was the closest thing he had to a mother. She watched him grow up into a fine young man. It was just too bad that this situation with Tasha came up now.
Sighing, she moved away from the door, turned off the hall light and headed back to her room. She hoped that everything would work out for his sake and Tasha’s. The last thing either of them needed was an unplanned pregnancy. Yawning, she climbed into bed and after putting the mystery novel on the bedside table, she switched off the lamp.
The following day she made soup and when it was close to time for Christopher and Tasha to drop by, she turned the stove on so that it would simmer. It looked very cold outside. Nice, hot homemade soup would do them very well. Earlier that morning she had gone to the drugstore to pick up the pregnancy test. It was one of the most highly recommended ones.
At four-thirty, Christopher and Tasha showed up at her flat. The minute she saw the girl, her heart went out to her. She looked scared and worried. Putting her arm around her shoulders, she drew her over to the sofa where they sat down. Taking her hands in hers, she spoke to her. “I know you are scared but we don’t know for sure if you’re pregnant. Here’s the test. Take it and then we will go from there. Come, I will take you to the bathroom.” She helped her up and took her to the bathroom and after making sure she knew what to do, she left her, closing the door behind her.
Christopher was hovering about, looking anxious. She reached out and took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Whatever happens, we will deal with it together,” she said.
He nodded. While they waited for Tasha, he held his aunt’s hand. Several minutes passed and then Tasha came into the living-room. She showed them the display. There was one line. “One line means I’m not pregnant,” she said.
Bev smiled. “Well, that’s encouraging,” she said.
“What should I do now?” Tasha asked.
“Wait to see when your period will come.”
“And what if it doesn’t?”
“Hopefully, it does but if it doesn’t, then, you will have to go and see you family doctor.” She put her arm around her. “This test is known to be extremely accurate. It could be that your period is late because your cycle has changed.”
“I hope so.”
“Come you, two, I have some hot, homemade soup ready for you. Have a seat around the table. And after you finish eating, you can stay a while and then, I’ll take you home.”
They seemed to be in better spirits and they spent a pleasant afternoon together before she dropped them to their respective homes. A couple days later, she got a call from Tasha telling her excitedly that she got her period. “I never thought I would be so happy to see it,” she exclaimed. “Thank you so much, Miss Martin for your help. Now I know why Chris talks so much about you. You’re really cool. I told my Mom and she was upset, of course. Chris and I talked about it and we’re not going to see each other outside of school. We will be just friends. Thanks again for everything.”
After she hung up the phone, Bev went over to the sofa and sank down heavily, relief washing over her. She offered a silent prayer of thanks. Now Tasha and Christopher could put the whole ordeal behind them and get on with their lives. This pregnancy scare put things into perspective for both of them and they had made the wise decision to keep things platonic between them. She wondered if Christopher had gotten around to telling Warner. She hoped so.
The doorbell rang and she got up, her head still spinning from the good news. It was Warner. She opened the door, smiling. “Hello,” she said.
He wasn’t smiling. He looked very serious. “I came over to talk to you about two very important matters,” he said.
“Okay. Come in. Where’s Christopher?”
“He’s gone to the cinema with some friends.”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thank you.”
“What did you need to talk to me about?”
“Christopher told me about Tasha last night. I didn’t lecture him because I think he learned a very valuable lesson but we had a long and very frank talk.”
“I’m happy that he told you. I didn’t think it was my place to do so.”
“I’m just thankful that things turned out well. Thanks for being there for Christopher as always.”
She smiled. “He knows he can count on both of us.”
His expression changed again. “The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is far more personal.”
Something about the way he was looking at her made her heart race. “What is it?”
He took a deep breath. “I will just come out and say it,” he muttered. “I love you, Beverly. I wanted to tell you that for very long time but just never worked up the courage until now.”
He was the only one who called her Beverly. When he said her name, it felt like a caress. She stared at him now, hardly able to believe that he was telling her that he loved her. “I love you too,” she murmured. “I fell in love with you the first time we met but kept it hidden because of Gail.”
“I cared for Gail but I didn’t love her. I married her because she was pregnant. I wanted to do the honorable thing. When I met you it was hard but I was committed to Gail and our marriage. If she were still alive I would still be married to her all the while loving you.”
“And I would have spent the rest of my life loving you,” she said. “So, where do we go from here?”
He reached for her hand and drew her toward him. “I want you to marry me. Christopher needs you and I need you. What do you say, Beverly, will you marry me?”
She nodded, “Yes,” she said through tears. And then, her hand flew up to her mouth when he produced a box which he was holding in his other hand.
“Christopher helped me to choose this one,” he said opening the box and taking out the ring. He slipped it on her finger.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
He reached up and cupped her face between her hands. “Yes, but not half as beautiful as you,” he muttered before he lowered his head and kissed her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back, thinking how true the saying was that good things come to those who wait.